Age Doesn’t Always Matter: Cataracts in Young Adults

Long gone are the days when cataracts were exclusively tied to seniority. When people think cataracts, they usually think of elderly people. This isn’t completely inaccurate – the vast majority of people with cataracts are over the age of 65. However, we now know that cataracts are not only a consequence of age, but can also result from injury or other medical conditions.

Cataracts are characterized by a clouding of the natural lens behind the pupil. Cataracts are extremely common, and are the leading cause of blindness throughout the world. While we don’t know the exact cause of cataracts, we understand that there are many factors that go into their development. These factors are not always synonymous with old age.

Cataract Risks

Aside from age, these are some of the factors that increase the risks of cataract in younger people:

Diabetes

Diabetes is a very common chronic disease in which the pancreas does not create enough insulin, leading to dangerously high blood glucose levels. Without proper management, diabetes can cause a host of different health problems, including diabetic eye disease and an increased chance of cataract development. Diabetes can affect anyone at any age, and with cases at an all time high, it is easy to see why younger people may be more at risk for cataracts now than ever.

So, how exactly does diabetes contribute to cataract formation? Simple, it’s because of glucose. The lens of the eye gets its nutrients from aqueous humor, the fluid found in the front portion of the eye. Poorly-controlled diabetes causes glucose levels to rise in both the fluid and in the lens of the eye. Swelling of the lens occurs as a consequence. In addition, an enzyme in the lens converts glucose to sorbitol. Sorbitol causes the lens to become more opaque than transparent.

Well-controlled diabetes can keep cataracts in check – although, once formed, cataracts will need to be removed through cataract surgery. Cataract surgery in our Glendale, Phoenix and Scottsdale locations is safe, effective and quick.

Injury

Cataract formation due to an injury is usually called “traumatic cataract”. This type of cataract is secondary to an blunt or penetrating ocular trauma. These cataracts can develop within weeks of the injury, while some take years to develop. When working in an environment where eye trauma is possible, it is very important to wear the proper safety gear. Take extra care when playing sports or doing any other activity in which your eyes may be susceptible to injury.

Other Risk Factors

Other than the two factors listed above, there are many things that can increase your risk of cataract development, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Use of steroid medications
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • A family history of cataracts
  • Eliminating Vision-Stealing Cataracts

Cataract generally develop slowly, over a period of several years. Any hint of blurry, distorted or discolored vision should be reported to an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. When found early, our doctors at Arizona Eye can counsel you on how to slow the progression, and when it will be best for surgery. Cataract surgery is an extremely common procedure. Our doctors here in Phoenix, Glendale and Scottsdale have been performing this procedure for years with amazing success. If you are dealing with cataracts, call us today for a consultation!

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